The Winston-Salem police officers were captured on camera driving with the stuffed animal by Divine Deva, who shared the video on her Facebook account earlier this week, noting that the stuffed animal was wearing a Rastafarian hat.
Rastafarianism is a religious and social movement that began in Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastafarians have characteristic codes of dress and sometimes wear dreadlocks. The movement’s roots can be traced back to the 18th century, and it was influenced by Ethiopianism and the Back-to-Africa movement championed by nationalist figures such as Marcus Garvey.
“They will never understand because they have never been offended in so many different ways as blacks have; not only with words but animals as well. The ignorance of those are shown by their words for anyone to say that there is nothing wrong with a monkey with a Rastafarian hat and locs in the back of a caucasian males police car has a underlined truth that they are not willing to except [sic],” Deva wrote in an update to the post about the incident.
Following Deva’s Facebook post, Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson apologized over the incident. An internal investigation revealed that the officers driving the police vehicle did not mean to offend anyone with the animal.
“In the future, we will confirm our stuffed animals are not offensive,” Thompson said in a Tuesday statement obtained by the Hill. “I apologize to any community member that found this circumstance to be offensive,” she continued, also noting that it’s common for officers to keep stuffed animals in their police cars to comfort children after incidents.
"Stuffed animals have proven to be a successful initiative for the WSPD [Winston-Salem Police Department],” Thompson added. “We have taken administrative actions to change the appearance of the display of the stuffed animal, specifically the monkey, to ensure no one else is offended. I assure you this will not reoccur.”